Behind the scenes, elephant trainer Tim Frisco instructs would-be trainers how to dominate elephants and make them perform circus tricks. "Sink that hook into 'em. When you hear that screaming, then you know you got their attention." An elephant trumpets in agony as Frisco's bullhook, with its sharp metal hook and spiked end, tears through her sensitive skin. Frisco, a Carson & Barnes elephant trainer, learned the trade from his father, a former trainer for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The fact is, animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls, or jump through rings of fire. To force them to perform these confusing and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools of the trade.
We applaud trapeze artists, jugglers, clowns, tightrope walkers, and acrobats, but let's leave animals in peace. Sweden, Austria, Costa Rica, India, Finland, and Singapore have all banned or restricted the use of animals in entertainment—it's time for the U.S. to do the same.